Raising the Bar: Creating the road map to success

by Martin Leitch
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Building the recognition and understanding within the C-Suite that facilities management is a business critical function has long been an aspiration of the profession. But a roadmap of how to achieve this has been unclear and ill defined – until now.

In 2012 we saw the publication of the first instalment of the Raising the Bar (RTB) series, with the title ‘Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of Facilities Management’. This has most recently been followed up by the third instalment in the series, ‘Raising the Bar: From Operational Excellence to Strategic Impact in FM’.

This latest report builds on the first by tracking trends and changes within the industry, with the conclusion that the industry is “at a tipping point… leading to a much more widespread understanding of just how strategic the built environment can be”. Just because we are at this tipping point, however, does not mean that our aspirations will become a reality. Momentum towards adopting the report’s recommendations needs to be built and maintained to ensure that FM does not risk “shrinking into even more of a tactical after-thought within the C-suite”.

It is not the intent of this article to summarise the report’s findings and conclusions, but rather to identify the key changes that need to happen to raise the bar and how such changes can be implemented at a practical level. One of the most significant conclusions presented by the report is that FM needs to rebrand itself as a “leader of workplace effectiveness as well as workforce productivity and well-being”.

This supports the view presented in my article ‘Unifying Workplace Silos’, which appeared in the October/November 2015 issue of FM, that the complexity of managing the modern day workplace needs a new breed of manager, one that is skilled in aligning with its peer infrastructure groups such as IT and HR, with the title of ‘workplace manager’.

The 2017 RTB report concludes that there are two distinct roles for the FM professional: “facilities professionals who make the buildings work” and “workplace professionals who focus… on ensuring that those facilities serve the needs of the business and the workforce”.

This emerging shift in labelling the FM function is reflected in the Workplace Management Framework (WMF), a tool for the development and subsequent assessment of best practice in the management of the workplace. The WMF defines workplace management as:

“… the management of all resources needed to design and maintain appropriate, effective and economical workplace experiences that align to strategic business objectives and support people in doing their best work every day wherever they are.”

So here we have international research that recommends building a new capability in workplace management,
and a framework that not only defines that capability, but also establishes benchmark best practices across a number of constituent management capabilities. In other words, the RTB report establishes a number of recommended actions and the WMF offers a roadmap to implementing these actions.

The RTB recommendations fall into three categories:

  • general recommendations
  • recommendations for in-house FM leaders, and
  • recommendations for service providers.

The nature of the general recommendations points to the bodies representing the FM profession and industry to enhance career opportunities in FM, enhance and evolve the definition of the workplace and to drive its adoption.

These challenges are not new, but the difference now is the existence of credible research and substantial evidence that fully supports these objectives. There now exists a significant body of work to present to the C-suite in support of the fact that facilities management is a strategically critical business function.

When discussing the subject of raising the FM organisational profile, in-house facilities managers have tended to raise concerns about how to achieve this. Building on the key 2012 RTB recommendations of thinking and acting strategically, the 2017 report presents eight recommended actions.

These recommendations are comprehensively supported by relevant WMF management capabilities and their constituent best practices. This combination provides in-house facilities management with the toolkit that will facilitate progress towards direct involvement in strategic business decision-making.

The 2012 RTB report also recommends moving a significant portion of operational activities to external service providers. This, again, is reinforced in the 2017 report with a number of recommendations for service providers that call for investment in careers, technology, skills development and the development performance data and metrics. Supported by the WMF, these objectives can also now be readily achieved.

In conclusion, the combination of the Raising the Bar report recommendations and the Workplace Management Framework toolkit presents a significant opportunity for the industry to tip the balance towards the strategic role that FM can deliver and business needs.

This will not happen, however, without rising to the challenge and taking action – by the professional and industry bodies, by in-house facilities management leaders and by service provider senior executives. In other words: “FM professionals who understand the centrality of their work to organisational effectiveness and translate that into business facing support will thrive; those who do not will become increasingly marginalised” (RTB 2017).

Martin Leitch FBIFM, MRICS, is a co-author of the ‘Raising the Bar’ report and principal consultant at FM Scope. Further information can be found on Raising the Bar at: www.rics.org/au/knowledge/research/research-reports/raising-the-bar- enhancing-the-strategic-role-of-facilities-management and the Workplace Management Framework: www.wmframework.com.

This article also appears in the August/September issue of Facility Management magazine.

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